"The Greatest Generation" Part III

SEPTEMBER 1999 - Americans From All Walks Of Life Pulled Together
As Never Before
- As
we continue to profile members in our version of Tom Browkaw's
best-seller The Greatest Generation, this month we are featuring Walter
Zagol, Jean Lockhart and Bill Baker, all of whom came of age during the
Great Depression and Second World War.

Meet Walter Zagol

Walter
Zagol was living in Illinois when he joined the army at age 19,
immediately following Pearl Harbor. He was and still is an ardent
patriot, who wears the American flag on his sleeve.

After
jump training at Fort Benning Georgia, he was assigned to the 101st
Airborne at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. From Ft. Bragg it was on to
England to prepare for the inevitable invasion of Europe.

When
our troops hit the beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Walter had already
been behind German lines for six hours. "Our code name was 'Overlord.'
We jumped into Normandy during the night preceding the landing. We had
Germans in front of us and behind us. We had also lost several men who
landed in a lake and drowned."

It
was during the Normandy engagement that Zagol was first hit. After
taking a bullet in the leg, he continued to engage the enemy until his
badly depleted platoon was evacuated to England.

But
it wasn't for long. After fresh troops replaced those lost, he jumped
again. This time into Holland under code name "Market Garden," just in
time for the Battle of the Bulge.

"When
word came that our lines were overrun during the Bulge we were rushed
to Bostagne, Belgium in cattle trucks," he said. "We shortly found
ourselves surrounded, and with half of our platoon dead, our commanding
officer surrendered. During the confusion I managed to escape into the
woods with two of my buddies."

Once
back to the safety of his own lines, Zagol having been wounded a second
time - shrapnel in the arm - was hospitalized until being sent back to
the U.S. in September 1945.

While
awaiting discharge from the Myles Standish military facility in
Taunton, Walter met Taunton native Adela Zagroday, another Z, whom he
married six months later and settled in that community. It was Adela,
not her husband, who told us about Walter's two Purple Hearts and two
Bronze Stars.

After working for
John Hancock for several years, he entered state service as a counselor
at the Division of Savings Bank Insurance. "I worked with some very
competent, dedicated people. Having worked in both the private and
public sector, I would say that state employees need not take a back
seat to anyone. Yes, there is internal politics, but there is just as
much internal politics in private corporations. It's a fact of life."

Now
retired, Zagol is active with the American Legion, VFW and DAV. He also
belongs to the 101st Airborne Association, whom he has returned to
Europe with several times. He has visited the American cemeteries and
walked through the rows of white crosses. He also saw the movie "Saving
Private Ryan", and snickered at the story line. In the flick Ryan was a
member of Zagol's 101st.

"Yes, I am
a patriot," he proudly acknowledged. "And yes, I've read the Greatest
Generation. I can't say we are the greatest, it wouldn't be fair. But I
can say there is no generation that has given more to its country."

Meet Jean Lockhart

The
'Greatest Generation' also included men and women on the home front
working in our defense plants and hospitals, and in general keeping our
country running under adverse conditions.

Besides
the very necessary mission of maintaining the education of our nation's
children, teachers also were frequently called upon to perform other
duties which were related to the war.

Jean
Lockhart was an elementary school teacher in Milton during World War
II. "Oh yes, the Japanese were Japs and the Germans were Krauts and
other such names which are no-no today. But it was war and not a time
to worry about niceties. Our country was at stake and American fighting
men were arriving home in caskets every day."

One
of Lockhart's responsibilities was to issue books of ration stamps to
residents of Milton. It was a period when many consumer goods had to be
rationed because of the shortages caused by the war. Gasoline, oil,
sugar, butter, meat and many other goods were all in short supply and
had to be rationed.

"In issuing
ration stamps for those goods, certain criteria had to be taken into
consideration. Such things as the number of members in a family, how
far a person working in a defense plant had to travel by car and the
number of units that were being heated by the same heating system," she
recalled.

"We conducted air raid
drills on a regular basis. Children were required to go to a designated
shelter area in the school during a drill. We also sold war bond stamps
to the children. The kids had small books which they filled with stamps
until they reached $18.75. They were then awarded a $25 war savings
bond."

It was also a time of
drives. There were paper drives, scrap metal drives, rubber tire
drives, and tin can drives. "I can recall helping with the Boy Scouts
who went around town on trucks during paper drives. Everyone wanted to
help with the war effort," she said.

"Some
of the youngsters had older brothers or even fathers who were in the
military. These kids were so proud. They'd wear sailor hats or army
jackets that had been given to them. They played war games during
recess and the Americans always won."

After
teaching for forty years, Jean retired from Brookline, her final
teaching venue, and moved to Harwichport where she continues to be a
very active person without any complaints about the 'Greatest
Generation' years.

"Patriotism was
in vogue. Nothing was too good for our fighting men. It was expected
that sacrifices would be made on the home front. As a teacher, I will
always remember those years with special pride." she said.

Meet Bill Baker

He
is a native of Mississippi, but like many World War II veterans who
spent military time in our state he later settled in Massachusetts -
Boston to be precise - and has left his mark as a public service
employee.

His name is Bill Baker.
He completed high school in Yazoo City, Mississippi and attended Xavier
University in New Orleans for two years. But he was forced to leave
Xavier to take care of his sick mother back home in Yazoo City, which
is where he was when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

He
immediately enlisted in the Coast Guard where he was one of the first
15 black "regulars" in that branch of the service. "Previously blacks
served as cooks and mess attendants," Baker explained. "I grew up in
the 30's in the south. Yazoo City High and Xavier were both schools for
blacks only. The Coast Guard was an integration breakthrough for me."

Although
Baker's war experiences did not include actual combat, his duty
stations were many. He served on both the east and west coasts as well
as Hawaii. He attended sonar school in New London, Connecticut, and had
further training in Key West and Portsmouth, N.H.

Baker
said that his earliest experiences with the war was when he was on
beach patrol duty at Sandy Neck Beach on the Cape. "The German subs
were picking off our merchant ships just a short distance from shore.
The debris and bodies were washing up along the beach. That's when the
war first hit home to me," he said.

It
was while he was temporarily stationed at the Fargo Building in South
Boston that Bill Baker married his childhood sweetheart, Clara Allen,
in 1943. Clara had attended Yazoo City High and graduated from Zillard
University in New Orleans.

"We
wanted to get married before I went overseas. The marriage took place
in Malden and Clara lived in Boston's South End after I shipped out for
Hawaii," Baker recalled.

When the
war was over, the Bakers temporarily lived in Roxbury while Bill worked
part-time and attended Suffolk University on the GI Bill.

After
graduating from Suffolk, Baker worked for The Commercial Filter
Corporation in South Boston until he was appointed to work for the
Boston Redevelopment Authority by Mayor John Collins.

"I
worked on the Urban Renewal Program under Ed Logue, whom Collins had
brought on board. The city was nearly bankrupt but some highrollers in
the business community called 'The Vault' helped turn it around," Baker
said. "Working for Logue I made my name in the South End and the city
was named an All American City under Collins.

"Those
were great years...so much was accomplished. And it continued under
Kevin White and Ray Flynn. I was very proud to be part of it... Boston
is truly a world class city."

And
Bill helped to make it a world class city, as his many citations from
mayors and other city leaders will attest. Down playing his citations
Baker said, "My wife, Clara, and I are enjoying our retirement, still
in Dorchester where we raised our seven children. I did read Brokaw's
'Greatest Generation' and yes, it was pretty much on the mark."

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